Vaporum Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you like Steampunk and/or enjoy Legend of Grimrock

About The Game

Vaporum is a grid-based dungeon crawler RPG in an original steampunk setting. It has this old-school dungeon crawling in first-person perspective. This is something you would encounter when playing the old Might and Magic games or the newer Legend of Grimrock series.
Your hero wakes up on an island in front of a mystic tower without any memory of who he is, what happened here and how he got here. Obviously, he decides to enter. That’s how the game begins.

Now, personally, the first thing I usually think about when I hear “dungeon-crawling” is turn-based, randomly generated level exploration. The game has neither: the levels are pre-defined and the combat happens in real time. The only thing that resembles turn-based gameplay is movement: you don’t get to move freely. Instead, the dungeon is split into tiles and you can move from tile to tile only. This constraint is done pretty seamlessly, so the movement limit won’t bother you.

The Gameplay

As I mentioned, the fights are in real-time: monsters have attack patterns and abilities, which you can remember and use to your advantage. When fighting the simplest ones – you can simply “dance” by moving forward one tile to attack and back one tile when they attack you, avoiding damage this way. The harder ones tend to move less predictably or have ranged attacks – so dodging will require considerably higher game expertise. This is where the game actually shines: you have a classical RPG-like inventory and levelling system, but those stats (depending on your chosen difficulty) are only an addition to your mechanical play skills. On higher difficulties, you can’t simply stand on one place, hit enemies and then use healing items. You’ll simply run out of repair kits and die.

The strong part of the game is immersion: the sounds fit the dark tower atmosphere well. The lightning is just about right: darker tones that allow you to see where are you going, but still make you feel like you are in the tower of evil. The level design supplements that: in this case you see how pre-defined levels have a clear advantage over randomly-generated content. You’ll be getting notes, “diaries,” that drive the plot forward. You’ll be hearing creepy noises while trying to figure out what happened. Levers, switches, keys – those are essential parts of your crawling experience. The puzzles that tower presents you are not complicated, but will still dilute the combat and give you some rest.

The game was marketed as “Legend of Grimrock” in Steampunk universe and it’s pretty much correct. Unfortunately, that also includes the flaws with camera controls. Turning happens by pressing the Q/E keys or holding middle mouse key and then dragging the mouse towards new direction. This is OK for exploration and puzzle solving. But in the midst of battle, this adds another set of buttons that delay your actions. One obvious solution would be to allow turning during the battles without keyholding, but alas, it’s not there.

Summary

Despite the high production quality, Vaporum definitely won’t be for everyone. Personally I find the mix between tile mechanics and real-time combat a bit awkward, but that should not deter you from the experience. If you enjoyed Legend of Grimrock – you are going to enjoy this game too. And because of the great immersion and skill-based, difficult combat, I highly recommend the game to legend of grimrock fans and those of you who look for more games in steampunk setting.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Galaxy of Pen And Paper Steam Screenshot

Genre: RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for the bugs to get fixed (but after that: 100% yes)

About The Game

Galaxy Of Pen & Paper is a spiritual successor of Knights of Pen & Paper, by Behold Studios. It’s a turn-based rpg game that features questing and battles. The setting is what makes it different from hundreds of similar games: the game takes you into the role of a DND player, seamlessly shifting you between the “real” world and the “space” world. At one moment, you see the game master and players actively discussing game mechanics at the table, and at the next – their alter-egos, questing through space, picking fights.

Pros and Cons

The game is packed with not-so-subtle references to other space series and puns. Writing and wordplay are the strongest moments of the game. That also means you’d need to read a lot: between battles, there are a plenty of dialogues and character interactions.

Combat is pretty straightforward: you have two battle lines on each side (3 characters on every one of them MAX). Characters take turns hitting each other. If you want to succeed in combat, you’ll have to take advantage between skill synergies. For example, you could learn a poison skill on one character, and a skill that gives attacks healing effect on the other one. Or the skill that burns poisoned enemies. There are quite a lot of combinations and that make the combat fun.

The good thing is that since you are playing as a GM and a party at the same time, you can often pick the amount of opponents that you are facing. If you get a task to defeat 4 enemies, you can split them into batches of two and fight them two times separately. The difficulty decreases, but the amount of rewards also goes down.

One new thing that has been added is space battle element. It’s a minigame that essentially involves ships throwing dice, accumulating action points that can be spent on healing/attacking. One thing that I could not find out is the way to upgrade the ship health: right as you get your ship, you get sent into optional quests that involve destroying other spaceships. There’s a catch though. You can not see the strength of the ships that you are going to fight. So when I encountered a starship with 400 hp, it quickly annihilated my 140 hp ship. This happened quite a few times. There was also no way to escape from the combat like this.

One thing that could be improved is the character progression UI. All of the skills are mixed in one box, available to see from the start, sorted by price. In my opinion, this is not a right approach, as it can get quite confusing. It’s also not so easy to distinguish between learned and not learned skills, since they all seem to be bundled together. It would have been easier to group the skills in some ways (passive / active? Class/generic? Group by effect?)

The other thing is bugs: the game have quite a good number of them. I could occasionally open the character window in inconvenient game moments and then never close it. Once I’ve started a class questline (and failed it), the savage stayed with my party and when I got another party member – it has been placed in the same position and essentially I had two characters in one slot during the combat.

Summary

Overall, $14.99 might seem like a steep price – but I say the writing and the immersive atmosphere are worth it. However, there are quite a lot of bugs, so I’m a bit hesitant. I genuinely had fun while playing it, but be prepared to encounter quite some bugs as you play. The different reviews of the game mention bugs of different severity and one of the encounered ones was quite severe, but not absolutely gamebreaking. If you don’t mind the bugs – I can recommend the game to all of the RPG fans.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Vagrant - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Disclaimer: Game is in Early access, lots of things are ought to change. Developers mentioned that there will be a lot of improvement and they encourage people to post their thoughts, comments and ask them anything in Steam community hub.

The Vagrant is a 2D Action / RPG game, where you take a role of a travelling sellsword on her own mission. Combat lots of different creatures and explore the world on a journey through medieval fantasy world.

The Good

Overall, the gameplay itself is great. Attack Sequences: Animations are well done and you can chain the combos quite easily. The attack combos are introduced gradually (through your talent tree, where you can look up what they do and the keys to use them), which gives you enough time to practice them. The controls are responsive and make it easy to perform attacks.

And the whole game actually follows this practice: the difficulty gradually increases, throwing easy monsters at the start and then becoming more challenging towards the end. The seasoned players won’t be bored at the beginning either: at every world, there are optional rooms with higher rewards and more challenging monsters.

There’s also a vast ability tree, or rather a circle. You can level up everything, as long as you have mana and find relevant items. For people who like to grind – this can be a perfect opportunity to max out all possible stats.

And finally, the graphics are nice. The backgrounds seem to be hand-drawn and overall very clean. The game has a very distinct medieval-fantasy feel. I can’t say anything bad about the music, it’s there and it’s not annoying nor repetitive, so I can say that it’s a plus.

The Bad

  • Can’t Skip the Cutscenes, there are not many of them, but sometimes when you die and have to redo it – it’s a pain.
  • Game Balance leaves some questions: potions are useless: they restore health, but have cooldown. Instead, you can open the equipment menu and use consumable food, that does the same and has no cooldown. There are even talents that reduce healing potion cooldowns. Why? You can essentially avoid that by just eating food (which is also encountered more often in game).
  • Translation shows errors now and then and then there are weird plot hole that I especially noticed: “everyone in the village got killed” – then you kill the boss – then everyone in the village (except for one house) is suddenly there again. The characters also seem to open up randomly: would you tell a random dude you’ve met a day ago that your father abandoned you? It’s up to you to judge.
  • Alright, I have to mention the breasts. Alright, I know there are fans of this style out there and I’m not here to complain about the size, but I can’t help but look at the heroine and ask “where’s the damn neck?” Breasts seems to be drawn too high, leaving no place for the clearly distinguishable upper chest and neck.

Summary

At its current state, the game is not perfect. The plot might not be that great and the character introductions are somewhat rushed, but the combat system and the gradual change of surroundings make it well worth it. The ability to chain combos flawlessly, customize your abilities / equipment, as well as difficulty being just right – that makes the game good and because of this I can confidently recommend it.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Rezrog - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

About The Game

Rezrog is a dungeon crawler where you take your party of explorers (one at a time) to go through the world. The game is styled like a table-top, each level is a dungeon that literally takes place on the table. Every character is a tabletop figure.

The Good

  • The style fits dungeon crawling perfectly: the board is revealed room by room, each room appears like lots of tabletop pieces dropping onto the table. When monster get killed – he is moved outside the room (placed nearby). The 2d-character figures also change the looks depending on gear equipped, which is pretty cool and unusual for dungeon crawling games.
  • Interesting approach to character death: when character is defeated, he gets “imprisoned.” That means that you cannot use the character before you rescue him.
  • Good graphics: 3D lightning is very well done, making dungeons more immersive than ever.
  • Challenging difficulty, especially in the beginning. You need to utilize every feature of the game to be successful: use the abilities, make sure to be well-equipped, purchase consumables and use them timely. Having said that, the game is not hard to get into: the UI is very clear and you won’t need to go through walls of text to understand how things work.
  • Skills can be freely swapped between characters. This is a double edged sword (later on that), but the good side is that you can customize any character. Also, it enhances prison system: you cannot equip the skill if the character that got imprisoned uses it already.

The Bad

  • Weapon Shop items do not have stats revealed until you buy them. You can’t even see level requirements on them. Essentially shop is a slightly improved slot machine: you know the type of the item that you are getting, but you have no idea what will it be. This seriously hinders strategizing and progression to some extent.
  • The content at the beginning can get a bit grindy: if your character gets imprisioned, you have to level up other characters to match the level, and the beginning of the game does not have that much monster variety.
  • The class differences are very vague. Since skills can be transferred between classes, the only thing that makes a difference is the natural growth of attributes.
  • Occasional bugs: sometimes your character jumps back to where he stood (all this happens while walking). Item description did not disappear when I closed inventory one or two times during my playtime. Nothing game breaking, but you notice those things.

Summary

Ultimately, what I like about the game is how well mechanics and style work together. Dungeon Crawler games are fascinating by themselves, but they often lacks good representation and is considered niche because of poor graphics / walls of text / hard to get into. Rezrog deals with these problems, and this makes it a game that can appeal to both gamers that are looking to get into the genre and more seasoned dungeon crawling veterans.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Super Stone Legacy - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50%+ discount

EDIT: 30-second victory screen has been made significantly shorter, removed that point by request of developer since it was fixed.

Super Stone Legacy is an action game. You go through randomly-generated dungeon rooms and kill all enemies that you encounter. One thing that makes it distinguishable is amount of boss fights: you encounter the boss after clearing two or three rooms. That means one boss fight approximately every 5 minutes. I must say right away that I’m on the fence about this game. Here are the reasons why, starting from the good ones:

The Good

  • The gameplay loop is really well done. The room battles are very dynamic and it is where the game shines.
  • Six characters with different attack patterns (that can be switched during game time) add enough variety to make fights exciting.
  • Skill-Based gameplay. Not much of a random factor: rooms are randomly generated, but nothing else. It’s up to you to dodge enemy attacks / move properly.

The Bad

  • Shooting/attacking mechanics: you have to click every time to perform normal attack. Why not make it possible to hold the left button for continuous attacks? There are two more attack types, but it would be much nicer to see them bound to right clicking / holding right mouse.
  • No difficulty settings. Once you level up your character to 7+ level, get plenty of hp and study enemy attack patterns, the game becomes a grind, you just go through enemies and simply click lots of times to defeat them without fear of being killed.
  • One walkthrough takes about 1.5 hours. You don’t have much incentives to start another one. There are no unlocks or anything like that.
  • There is no save feature, meaning you have to complete the game in one run. 1.5 hours might not be too crazy, but the feature would help.
  • UI: You can not alt-tab and minimize the window. It stays on top of the display all the time. For those of you with two+ displays: you can not choose the display in Unity launcher, which seems weird, because other games made in Unity normally allow that.

 

Summary

The game battles are fun and you can’t take that away. On the other hand, there are terrible UI / UX issues and not that much replayability. You completed the game – now what? You can try again with the different characters, but chances are you’ve seen most of the bosses and the enemies will be the same, even if they will be appearing in the same sequence. Taking the bad sides into account, I suggest waiting for 66% discount or more before grabbing the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

MidBoss - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG / Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 66% discount

MidBoss is a dungeon crawler where you get to possess the bodies of your defeated enemies. By defeating more enemies and playing those characters, you unlock new skills and are able to use their skillsets even when you repossess some other monster. That opens a room for many different skill and build combinations.

The Good

  • The main idea: there are lots of monsters with unlockable abilities (you have to unlock them on every new run) that you combine into your own character builds. Each monster can have up to 3 active abilities chosen at the time. Some of the monsters don’t have 3, others have much more, which makes you choose. Those 3 abilities can be transferred to the next monster upon death, which opens space for LOTS of combinations.
  • The way how new runs are handled: the beginning gets repetitive, but “grave goods” system that allows you to transfer one item from your previous characters really helps the random factor and introduces the missing “roguelike” element: no matter what decisions you take, you will be stronger on the next walkthroughs if you are using the grave goods system properly.
  • Challenging difficulty done just right: the game is easy to get into, but hard to master. You’ll have to experiment a lot in order to find valid builds.
  • The art is not bad and is done in a consistent style. It’s a bit generic for a dungeon crawler, but not low quality.

The Bad

  • Random generation: the rooms often feel empty and not decorated enough. Additionally, the random generation also strongly affects the loot, so there will be games that you lose simply due to randomly generated items not being strong enough.
  • Not many stats compared to other roguelikes. When you level up, you can choose one of four stats only. Those affect your other attributes like dmg / block chance. So in that regard – levelling up your main character is pretty limited.
  • The UI: Menus are a bit clumsy. You cannot bind items on hotkeys (yes, even activated items). You cannot equip items at once when you pick them (even if you right click on them), you always have to open inventory and choose them.
  • The fonts are blurry and hard to read. The whole game graphics are blurred out (probably by intention), but I’m assuming that the blur shader is applied for the whole scene on rendering. This should not be done this way: the good idea is to render UI / Text after the relevant gameplay scene has been rendered. My eyes were not getting tired, but that overall impacts the UX and decreases the perceived quality of the game.

Summary

Compared to other roguelikes, this game is remarkably easy to get into, but that does not make it easy to play. The main possession mechanic is deep and well thought-out, but other aspects don’t feel very developed compared to other dungeon crawlers. I can recommend the game to those who are looking for a way to get into the genre or just don’t enjoy crawlers where you have to read tons of text. However, MidBoss seems quite overpriced right now and I’d personally wait for 66% discount and grab it close to $5 (or your regional equivalent), simply because there are other alternatives on the market.

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Expeditions: Viking - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: RPG / Strategy / Tactics
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Expeditions: Viking is a Strategy/Tactical RPG game where you take control of a band of Norsemen in 790 AD. The game process is split into three parts: global map (of Denmark and England), questing locations (think Neverwinter Nights) with real-time movement and conversations, and then same locations that switch to turn-based combat when battle starts.

The Good

  • The world is really big and there’s lots of things to do. However, when I was playing, I never felt swamped with quests: it’s like every location balances on what it gives, so you don’t have a 20+ quest log, but receive them gradually instead.
  • The quest themselves offer a good diversity of choice: there are multiple ways you can solve most of them, violent or not. The dialogs between characters remind heavily of Neverwinter Nights, and the actual quest plot quality is close to that level too.
  • Lots of possible character builds and interesting levelling system: there’s no levels per se, but you get the special upgrade points after questing / combat. As you gather more points – you can invest them in specializations for your crew: weapons, skills, utility stuff and some special perks. Overall more than 100 skills that you can level.
  • Deep turn-based combat: the tactical element of positioning your characters and using appropriate skills in the combat makes the game challenging, but not impossible to beat.
  • Solid graphics; the game has its own distinct style that puts you in a dark world of 8th century Europe.
  • Great music and sound effects that make you feel immersed in the game world.

The Bad

  • The biggest thing that breaks the immersion is lots of bugs in the quests: it seems that they often were made with assumption that player is going to take one exact sequence of actions. As an example, there’s a quest about Roman cult that is split into two parts: there are multiple branches, but overall if you descend to the dungeon and kill one branch leader and then pick his banner (without meeting the second one at first) – you’ll be asked to go to the dungeon again, pick the banner. Except there’s nobody there anymore, right? You killed them. Then the combat sequence starts, but there are zero enemies. After that: the combat instantly ends and another copy of the “unique banner” appears. Nothing gamebreaking (well, except for one in the beginning, when you can’t talk to Gunnar after killing him when I had to replay it, but it was fixed) – but that gives an impression that game did not have enough quality control.
  • Quest Locations could really use a minimap (like Diablo style). Pressing “M” all the time to open the map (and then close it) is really troublesome.
  • Loading times for large locations seem to be quite long

 

Overall, if it was not for the multiple minor bugs in quests: Expeditions: Viking would feel like a top quality AAA game. Everything is there: character build possibilities, diverse quests with lots of outcomes, resource and group management, global map with occasional random events. If you think you can look past through occasional bugs in quests – I highly recommend the game to tactical / strategy game fans, as well as people who just enjoy good plot and captivating quest writing.

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Feature Image taken from the Expeditions: Viking store page, here

Sonny - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Not while controls/UI are like that

When you hear about the game “Sonny” some of you probably remember your teens: that was a really popular flash game. The same goes for me: I still have fond memories of playing it. This game on Steam, however, is not exactly a direct sequel of sonny1/2 from flash to PC. It’s a port from the iPhone game, made by the same author, based on the plot of the first game. It’s a turn-based RPG where you clear stages with your party, acquiring new skills and items in the process.

Pros

  • Content is decent. Lots of items, engaging plot (who does not like zombies?)
  • The combat system is well thought out: it’s easy to learn but hard to master, offers a solid challenge
  • Talent tree + possibility to evolve your abilities during battle, adjusting to your playstyle and improving the ways to defeat your enemies
  • Combat feels well polished: there’s really no attack animations for the character sprites, but hitting the enemies feel really good: lots of flashy numbers and colorful effects.
  • Solid and colorful graphics overall.
  • Sounds/music are good

Cons

  • All cons for me are essentially associated with UI/UX. The game might be ported to PC in terms of graphics, but UI/UX is still kept from Mobile. No difference between left / right / middle clicks in battle: if you want to see ability descriptions, you have to hold your CLICKED mouse button on them which screams “touch” from mobile. No skill hotkeys. The first flash game had similar mechanics, but it did not open a new window when you clicked the skill for description. That makes a huge difference. Here, when you want to check your skill out during the battle, you’ll also need to close the window with description (in case you don’t want to use it).
  • By the way, using right click on skill upgrade window teaches your character skill instantly in your talent tree. Learned it the hard way. So yes, there is a way to read about the talent, you just need to LEFT click it. The inconsistency is killing me.
  • Shop: no buy-and-equip at once. You have to buy your item, close the shop window, go to inventory window and equip your item there.
  • Hovering on stats does not explain them. There’s “Stat” info button that explains basic stats.
  • Big one: some debuffs are not visibly displayed on your character (you can find out that he’s debuffed only by clicking on him). Might not seem like a huge deal, but there’s literally a debuff that kills you when you attack.

Summary

Essentially, it feels like a good mobile game that tries to find the way to PC. By itself, there’s nothing bad in the fact, but the laziness in adjusting the UX for decent use on PC really breaks the experience. The game screams “mobile” right now. Honestly, I this is the first time I loved the the setting and gameplay, but was absolutely frustrated by the controls, as playing it on PC felt like playing the game on an oversized mobile. This type of controls work on mobile mostly for one reason: buttons are not too far from another due to smaller screen, you can simply touch them and navigating is much more convenient with your fingers. On pc, you have to scroll your mouse and click more buttons than necessary. The lack of hotkeys also hurts the game that requires you to do lots of clicking on skills. Overall, get it if the control issues are fixed. The gameplay is OK, but the controls are infuriating. If you have an iphone: get it there or wait for fixes on PC, I would not recommend this game in its current state, especially to Sonny fans out there. Better go replay the first game on the publishers website

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Feature Image taken from the Sonny store page, here